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Context of '8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001: American Airlines Managers Told about Flight 11 Problems during Conference Call'

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American Airlines has problems contacting the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, about the problems with its aircraft, according to four managers working at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, on this day. Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Joe Bertapelle, and Mike Mulcahy will later tell the 9/11 Commission that American Airlines has “a hard time on 9/11 in getting in touch with Herndon.” They will say that “[p]recious minutes were lost in building the communications bridge” between the SOC and the Command Center. The cause of these communication problems is unknown. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] The SOC has known that there are problems on Flight 11 since 8:21 a.m., when Marquis received a call from a supervisor at the airline’s Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, alerting him to a call that had been received from one of the plane’s flight attendants about the emergency taking place (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Presumably the SOC starts trying to contact the FAA Command Center soon after receiving this call. It is known that the SOC will make contact with the Command Center at 9:16 a.m., if not earlier (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9, 15] Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, is at least able to reach the FAA’s Boston Center regarding Flight 11 at 8:29 a.m. (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453] The four American Airlines managers will also tell the 9/11 Commission, “In the event that the [American Airlines] SOC was aware that it was the first to know about an incident [with an aircraft], the protocol would have been for the SOC manager on duty [i.e. Marquis] to have immediately autodialed to the Herndon manager on duty [i.e. Ben Sliney] with the information.” However, the FAA “knew what was going on because of the intercepted communications from the cockpit.” [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] (FAA air traffic controllers have been aware of problems with Flight 11 since around 8:14 a.m., when they lost communication with the plane (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and they subsequently hear communications made by the hijackers on the plane, beginning at 8:24 a.m. (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 18-19] )

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Bill Halleck, Joseph Bertapelle, Federal Aviation Administration, Mike Mulcahy

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Gerard Arpey.Gerard Arpey. [Source: American Airlines]Gerard Arpey, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, learns of the trouble on Flight 11 and then heads to the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center, but he is unable to contact the airline’s president to alert him to the crisis at this time. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file]
Arpey Told about Call from Flight Attendant - At around 8:30 a.m., Arpey, who is in his office at American Airlines’ headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, makes a routine phone call to the nearby SOC. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] The call is answered by Joseph Bertapelle, the manager of SOC operations coordination/air traffic systems. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file] Bertapelle tells Arpey about a phone call the airline has received from Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] Since 8:18 a.m., Ong has been on the phone with employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001), and one of those employees has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9]
Arpey Wonders if Ong's Call Is Genuine - Bertapelle tells Arpey that Marquis has learned that Ong said there were “bad guys” on her plane and a flight attendant had been stabbed. Arpey wonders if the call from Ong is genuine. Considering the number of “crank” calls the airline receives, he will later comment, he is “conditioned to be somewhat skeptical.” However, when Bertapelle says Ong has reported a cockpit intrusion (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), this information makes Arpey think “that the incident could be the real thing.”
Arpey Unable to Reach Airline's President - Immediately after the call with Bertapelle ends, Arpey tries calling Don Carty, the president of American Airlines, to let him know what is happening. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] But Carty is at home answering e-mails and so has not yet arrived at his office. Arpey therefore leaves a message, requesting that Carty call him as soon as possible.
Arpey Heads to Operations Center, Learns Details of Hijacking - Arpey briefs his executive assistant on what he has learned about the trouble on Flight 11. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] He then heads to the SOC, along with Dan Huffman, American Airlines’ senior vice president of maintenance and engineering. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file] The SOC is about a mile away from the airline’s headquarters, and Arpey will recall that he arrives there at between 8:35 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. After he reaches the SOC, managers there tell him they are now treating Flight 11 as a confirmed hijacking. Arpey is told that the plane’s pilots are still not responding to calls from the flight attendants and that Ong said a passenger in first class had been stabbed, possibly fatally (see 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). He learns that the FAA has notified the airline that, instead of heading west on its intended flight path, Flight 11 is heading south; the plane’s transponder has been turned off; and the pilots are not responding to radio calls (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Arpey also learns that airline managers are setting up the System Operations Command Center in order to deal with the emergency (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and because they are doing this, he will say, he “knew that they had concluded the incident was real.” [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] As executive vice president of operations, Arpey is responsible for American Airlines’ worldwide flight operations, and he will therefore be directly involved in the airline’s subsequent emergency response efforts and other operational decisions throughout the day. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]

Entity Tags: Gerard Arpey, Don Carty, Dan Huffman, American Airlines, Joseph Bertapelle

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

American Airlines’ System Operations Command Center.American Airlines’ System Operations Command Center. [Source: American Airlines]American Airlines managers activate the System Operations Command Center (SOCC) in order to manage the company’s response to the terrorist attacks. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] The SOCC is a dedicated crisis response facility located on the floor above, and overlooking, the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Activating the command center allows the airline to isolate an event and gather together the people needed to manage it. [9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file] The SOCC is activated in emergencies, such as major accidents and hijackings, during which the airline’s top operations officials assemble there. Craig Parfitt, the managing director of dispatch operations, and Joseph Bertapelle, the manager of SOC operations coordination/air traffic systems, will serve as its directors today. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file]
Accounts Unclear over When SOCC Is Activated - The exact time when the SOCC is activated is unclear. Gerard Arpey, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, will tell the 9/11 Commission that when he arrives at the SOC, between around 8:35 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. (see (8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he sees that Parfitt, Bertapelle, and Kyle Phelps, the manager of administration for the SOC, are setting up the SOCC. By around 8:45 a.m. or 8:50 a.m., according to Arpey, the command center is filling up with people. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] But Parfitt will indicate that the SOCC is activated slightly later. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that it is being set up after the airline’s 8:45 a.m. conference call (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001) and that senior managers, including himself, arrive there at around 8:55 a.m. Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, will say that at about 8:50 a.m., he looks up and notices activity in the SOCC. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] The SOC manager is the individual responsible for activating the SOCC, according to a 9/11 Commission memorandum. However, it is unclear whether Marquis makes the decision to activate the command center on this occasion. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file]
Airline's Key Decisions Made in the SOCC - The SOCC will be primarily responsible for dealing with the crisis. [9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004 pdf file] The key decisions on the airline’s immediate response to the hijackings will be made there. American Airlines employees in the command center will provide assistance to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies involved in investigating the attacks. The SOCC will remain open 24 hours a day for the next two weeks. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Joseph Bertapelle, Gerard Arpey, Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Kyle Phelps

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Joseph Bertapelle.Joseph Bertapelle. [Source: Publicity photo]American Airlines managers are informed of what their airline has learned about the trouble on Flight 11 during a regular conference call. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] In their daily morning conference call, senior American Airlines personnel usually discuss what happened on the previous day at the airline and what they are expecting in the day ahead. [9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file] But shortly after today’s conference call begins, Joseph Bertapelle, a manager at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, announces, “Gentlemen, I have some information here I need to relay.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] Bertapelle then passes on to the senior managers much of the information about the hijacking of Flight 11 that has been received by SOC employees Craig Marquis and Bill Halleck. Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, has been on the phone with a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, who has been relaying to him information she received in a simultaneous phone call with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11 (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9] And Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, has been in contact with the FAA’s Boston Center, which gave him details of the problems with Flight 11 (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/25/2004, pp. 15] The conference call apparently only lasts a short time. Craig Parfitt, American Airlines’ managing director of dispatch operations, will later recall that at around 8:55 a.m.—10 minutes after the conference call begins—senior managers are arriving at the System Operations Command Center, located on the floor above the SOC (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Presumably, some of these managers will have previously been participating in the conference call. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Bill Halleck, Craig Parfitt, Craig Marquis, Joseph Bertapelle, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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